Offensive Bounce In The Balance

Eron Harris' total offensive progression continued in the win over Texas Tech. And to get past Kansas State tonight, West Virginia likely needs his newfound balancing act to continue.

Much like fellow freshman Terry Henderson, Harris was signed as a hired gun, a sharpshooter whose jumpshot could jump start the Mountaineers when they all-too-often bogged down. Of late, however, Harris has flashed a tendency to attack the bucket rather than try to solely fill it up from the outside. The balance has worked well in both areas, and allowed Harris to bounce back from a three-game stretch in which he stagnated while relying too heavily on the three-pointer.

Against Kanas and Texas at home and Texas Tech on the road, Harris went a combined eight for 27 from the field, including missing 16 of his 21 threes. The overall and three-point shooting percentages of 29.6 and 23.8 were far below his season stats of 45 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range. Then, versus TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech, Harris began shifting the focus from the three to a more all-around approach. The results were startling. The 6-2, 190-pounder made 16 of 29 total shots, and made seven of 14 from three. That's 55.2 percent overall, 50 percent from three.

And where the Kanas-Texas Tech-Texas stretch saw a shot selection that was 77.7 percent threes, the recent trio of games has been at a rate of 48.3. Harris has become a bit more versatile, and it's actually forcing foes to back off him defensively for fear of getting beat off the dribble. That's opened better spacing for cleaner three-point looks, and it has paid off in much better overall statistical performances.

"I hesitate on my shot, when really I should just catch it and shoot it, trust my shot," Harris said. "The best part of my game is that if you take away my jumper, I can go by you. If you don't close out, I can shoot it."

Making the right read and resulting intelligent choice will be key to any upset chance for West Virginia in tonight's Big Monday clash. No. 10 Kansas State (20-5, 9-3 Big 12), red hot and well-rested, will play its third home game in four and has won five of six with the lone loss at rival Kanas' Allen Fieldhouse. Harris took just three shots in WVU's 65-64 home loss to the Wildcats on Jan. 12. It was the game prior to his blow-up at Iowa State in which he hit four of seven threes to rally the Mountaineers from down 18 points to a tie in the final dozen seconds of the 69-67 defeat.

"I believe that I could, in my head," Harris said of seeing increased playing time at an early point in his career. "I didn't know if it would happen or not. I wasn't sure. I just kept working. When (head coach Bob Huggins) threw me in the starting line-up, I was like ‘I guess he trusts me.' So just go out and do what you do. There's a little bit of pressure that comes with it when you move into a bigger position and the coaches want you to do more, when you don't do it I feel like you're failing your teammates and failing your coaches. You're not doing the things that got you to that point. Just keep playing, the next play, the next play. They tell me that all the time."

Harris' 31 minutes played against Texas Tech were more than any player other than Deniz Kilicli. Since becoming a starter at Iowa State, Harris has played no fewer than 24 minutes in any game, and he is averaging almost 30 minutes per contest in West Virginia's recent 4-1 stretch.

"I always had it," Harris said. "In the beginning of the season, I wasn't playing comfortably, naturally. Now I am playing like I know I can play. Everything comes naturally now. Somebody takes away this, you take this. You take what you're given. It's natural basketball."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories